Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Khartoum Household Help

Mirriam, my help in Khartoum. Isn't she beautiful?

In August last year, when I first met my Khartoum household help, Mirriam, I knew she and I would get on well. She couldn't speak any English and I could speak even less Arabic, but that didn't pose any problem. She works for me on Mondays and Thursdays and for Issam, the general manager on Wednesdays and Sundays.

After being on leave for more than two months, Issam had a substantial amount of washing. Last Wednesday as Mirriam arrived at his flat downstairs, the power failed. Grant phoned me from work and said he was coming home to start the generator. He also said that Mirriam would need to do Issam's washing in our tub as his is broken.

A while later, Mirriam came up the stairs to my flat, dragging the largest bag of washing I have ever seen. She set to work washing, spinning, hanging items on my clothes line; in between, popping downstairs to do the housework. At about 1pm she began to iron. She ploughed on valiantly but at 2pm she packed up and she said she would finish Issam's ironing the next day. I wondered how she would fit it with her work at my flat, but knew she would somehow.

When Mirriam arrived the next morning, she was not alone; she had another woman with two small children with her. She introduced her companion as her sister Safira. She said Safira had come along to help with Issam's ironing. I thought this was very innovative of Mirriam and welcomed them both.

The children were so well-haved while their mum did the ironing. Here in Khartoum it's the first time I've seen anyone iron on the floor, but it obviously works well!

Throughout the morning, while Safira ironed I took a few photos. I was so impressed at how well-behaved the three-year-old was. I gave her a few highlighters and sheets of paper to keep her amused. The baby, also a girl, was fed, put down on the floor next to her mum, where she fell asleep.

Mirriam and Safira pose with the children for a photograph

Once the ladies were dressed in their street clothes, I asked them to pose for me. Yesterday I printed the photos, Grant cut them and we gave them to Mirriam.

For other posts on That's my World, Tuesday - hosted by Klaus, and team members Sandy, Sylvia, Louise and Fishing Guy - click here


  1. This is a very interesting snapshot of a world I do not know.

  2. Jo, I can only echo what Martha has said -- that is one part of the world that I've never been to, so seeing your photos is a chance to experience a culture I'm not likely to see in my life time. I really appreciate your sharing these with us! Have a great week!


  3. It's nice to be able to see the ladies and hear about the way they work. When you say that Mirriam had to use your tub, do you mean she did the washing by hand? I know that in Africa (indeed many other places) a lot of laundry is hand done. In fact, I do a lot of hand washing myself though thankfully it isn't the main mode of laundry.

  4. Such beautiful women and child.

  5. What a wonderful peep in to your world and how dignified they look. Great post.

  6. Hi Jo, another fascinating look at your world, I must sympathise with Grant as I have a morbid fear of dentists since I had a very bad experience as a child.

  7. Such beautiful and resourceful women. How fortunate you are to have them in your life. Hope everyone's language skills improve.

  8. Jo...these women are so beautiful! And the children too. It's nice that you are able to have help. I can't imagine what it would be like.

  9. A very exciting and interesting post you have shared, with nice photos of the ladies and children!
    I haven't seen any one ironing at the floor before, but it seems to work well - one might not get the problems with curly edges which often comes with the regular way :)

  10. What beautiful women they both are, Jo. I have found - time and time again - that children in poverty stricken/poor/ underdeveloped countries are much more well behaved than your average 'privileged' child in the first world.

  11. Thanks for visiting, Martha.

    Thanks Julie, I love to write about the places we live in and/or visit.

    Thanks Sylvia;) I'll be doing less Khartoum posts from next Thursday as we're flying out to South Africa on our three-week break.

    Thanks Ladyfi; I marvel at the beautiful bone structure of the Sudanese women.

    Hi Indrani;) good to see you again!

    Hello Peggy;) so many adults can hark back to a bad dentist experience!

    Hi Gaelyn;) boy, am I trying to learn this language. We will get there!

    Hi Lori;) that is why I always say marvel at all the chores you do on your farm and in your home.

    Hi Melusine;) welcome to my blog. Yes, this is the first time I see someone iron on the floor.

    Hi Lynda;) my thoughts exactly. These children are told by their parent they have to go to work and the children had better sit still. No rewards are offered either, for good behaviour which is a good thing.

  12. Jo: Neat look into your world through this experience.

  13. Good to see you, Tom. Thanks for your comment.


Thank you for visiting my blog and taking the time to leave a comment. I appreciate your feedback. Jo